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    ‘A once-a-year show of support doesn’t move the needle’: do partnerships aid inclusivity?

    When it comes to showing solidarity with marginalized groups, is it really the more the merrier? Partnerships can amplify aligning values, but also risk feeling forced. Three marketing leaders from The Drum Network share what real brand allyship looks like.  

    Jodie Fullagar, managing director at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment: “Partnerships offer an enormous opportunity for brands to drive real change and access a broader variety of voices and identities. Every identity is multi-faceted and so, while diversity within a business is crucial, it is just as important that brands collaborate with talent outside their four walls to represent multi-dimensional perspectives that might not otherwise be heard from within.

    “It’s not just brands that should be embracing collaboration as a route to inclusivity, it’s agencies too. We are building an ‘Inclusion Alliance’, a series of strategic partnerships with key organizations that guide and shape our thinking and work to ensure authenticity reigns.

    “This includes a number of diverse partners, including lollipop mentoring, a free mentorship program for Black women in marketing, digital talent and entertainment agency Vamp, culture change experts Utopia, social purpose music platform Limitless and the Trans Creative Collective.

    “Collaboration is the key because it brings all voices, perspectives and experiences to the table to create truly representative work.”

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    Sarah Jennings, audio-visual director at JAA Media, and Gina Miller, deputy head of allyship at Bloom: “When we talk about allyship, we are talking about a person or brand actively advocating and working for the inclusion of a marginalized group in all areas of society. They may not be a member of that group, but they work in solidarity with it. They promote and aspire to advance a culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts.

    “To do this authentically as a brand may be more challenging than as an individual, as the public is – now more than ever – aware and skeptical of ‘brand washing’ activity, be that greenwashing, sportswashing or diversity washing.

    “But that does not make it impossible. In our day-to-day roles, we work closely with all of the broadcasters and last year we saw an ambitious initiative from Channel 4 in its ’Black to Front’ campaign. ’Black to Front’ was all about demonstrating Channel 4’s ongoing commitment to improving Black representation on-screen and more widely in the TV industry. It challenged us all to see content differently and aimed to have a lasting legacy in terms of increased Black representation both on- and off-screen.

    “The reason this initiative worked so well was it felt so true to Channel 4’s own persona; it was authentic. It describes its purpose as to ‘represent and champion under-represented audiences and communities’, which it does in much of its programming already, but it really was the credible broadcaster to bring this ambitious project to life.”

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    Nyron Fauconier, vice-president and senior account director at Jack Morton: “Brands get inclusivity right when it’s organic to who they are and what they represent – and that applies to partnerships too. That means seeking out and supporting organizations and diverse-owned and -led business partners that align authentically with your brand’s essence and resonate with the audiences you want to reach. Think about how and when your brand is engaging with its partners, too.

    “Partnering with an organization just to host a once-a-year show of support doesn’t move the needle. Instead, brands looking to leverage partnerships to improve inclusivity should put proof to their promise of inclusivity by building deep, specific relationships that connect them with diverse audiences who are engaged in powering the future of the community and celebrating its history – all year round.”

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